I was born and raised in Philadelphia, where I somehow developed a burning desire to visit and learn about Cuba. I traveled to Cuba for the first time in 2004, where I spent a semester studying at the University of Havana and the Instituto Superior del Arte. Since then I have returned as a researcher, and developed many wonderful relationships with Cuban bloggers and intellectuals, as well as scholars abroad who share my interest in digital communication and the information economy of the island.
In 2009, I began researching Internet use and blogging in Cuba for my Master’s thesis. I spent several weeks in Havana interviewing bloggers, journalists, and academics about their perceptions of the impact of blogs and digital culture in Cuba. I learned a lot, and left the island with much more material than I could ever incorporate into a single paper. This blog became a repository for those ideas and stories that were rattling around in my head , but never made it into my formal research. It begins with Cuba, but it has wandered over time. For a fuller, more inspiring version of this story, read my first entry.
Here is some information about my Cuba research, FAQ-style.
Why am I so interested in Cuba?
Whenever people ask me the ‘why Cuba’ question, my first inclination is to say to them “why aren’t you so interested in Cuba?”
I studied for a semester at the Universidad de la Habana in 2004, and I have maintained a passionate, needling confusion about Cuba ever since.
How did I begin?
I went to graduate school wanting to develop a project focusing on issues of expression and censorship in recent Cuban history, and set out to write on the cultural milieu of Cuba in the 1970s, when writers like Heberto Padilla and Antón Arrufat were denounced by Union of Cuban Writers and Artists (UNEAC) for the political meaning of their work. Early on, I found that several Cuban bloggers were writing about the period, and before long, I became more interested in studying the experiences of Cuban bloggers today than I was in revisiting a period that had been already been well documented in the field.
Did I really need to go to Cuba to do this project?
Yes. I easily could have narrowed my study to a literary analysis of Generación Y or other blogs, limiting myself to the blogosphere. But I was as interested in the content of the blogs as I was in the physical process through which they come into existence. Both the Cuban blogosphere and the Cuban blogging community are comprised of a complex fabric of literary, political, and technological elements that I think are best understood as they relate to one another.
Did I travel there illegally?
No. I traveled to Cuba under a specific license issued to the University of Chicago by the United States Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which allows faculty and graduate students to travel to Cuba for academic research and exchange.
If you want to know more, feel free contact me.